Peptides almost impossible to detect in testing
The illegal "new generation drugs" used by athletes and administered by coaches are designed to stimulate growth hormones and are nearly impossible to detect by testing.
Peptides can have many benefits for sportspeople, including the reduction of body fat and assistance in the swift recovery from injuries.
Legal peptides help the body recover from physical activity and can be taken as supplements.
However, the illegal peptides uncovered by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and being investigated by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) are used to stimulate muscle growth and have less obvious side effects than steroids.
Many peptides aren't approved for human use.
These new-age drugs are very difficult to pick up through testing.
The use of coercive powers by investigators, such as calling on witnesses is usually the only way to prove illegal use.
The ACC report released on Thursday found athletes and officials were part of a "widespread" use of the growth hormone-releasing peptides.
The substances it found in use in Australia were GHRP-2, GHRP-6, CJC-1295, AOD-9604 and hexarelin, all of which promote the release of an increased level of growth hormone into the bloodstream.
All except one type are prohibited under WADA guidelines.
GHRP-2 and GHRP-6, administered through injections, are used to stimulate the release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland.
They stimulate hunger, aid metabolism and result in lean muscle mass and improved strength.
They help athletes rapidly recover from injuries such as bone fractures.
CJC-1295 is available as a cream, but is not approved for human use and is considered to be banned under WADA rules.
It results in reducing body fat, improving memory and endurance.
It also reduces pain and swelling and repairs injured tissue.
Hexarelin is available as a tablet and is prohibited by WADA.
It increases strength, growth of new muscle fibres and assists in healing and reducing body fat.
AOD-9604, while not approved for human use, is not currently banned by WADA.
The ACC did not disclose the full extent of the use of these substances, but said it found cases of elite-level players using peptides to rehabilitate soft tissue injuries.
Some officials and members of the high performance unit from one club had injected players with a "a variety of substances, possibly including peptides.
"The substances were administered at levels which were possibly in breach of WADA anti-doping rules," the report said.
Players and officials had easy access to new-generation performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) including peptides, the report said.
New types of PIEDS, which were once considered to be used only by elite athletes and sophisticated sports doping programs, were now "widely available".
Athletes have been able to directly acquire PIEDS like testosterone, steroids and peptides from anti-ageing clinics, sometimes without a prescription.
Some of those clinics were linked to organised criminal identities.
The ACC also said PIEDS were being distributed by doctors, sometimes without prescriptions, which is illegal, or through a pharmacy owned by these doctors.